Keep Writing! Authors Share Their Best Advice on Overcoming Writer’s Block

Posted by Cynthia on January 26, 2015
Have you ever been hit with the dreaded writer's block? You're typing away when suddenly the words stop flowing, the ideas dry up, and the blank page glows ominously. What is a writer to do?

Savvy Goodreaders have turned to their favorite authors for advice and guidance using Ask the Author on Goodreads. Here are the top tips they received, from pros like Elizabeth Gilbert, Lois Lowry, and B.J. Novak!

Tip #1: Rethink it!

See Melissa Marr's complete answer here.

Tip #2: Deny it!

See Nick Harkaway's complete answer here.

See Lois Lowry's complete answer here.

Tip #3: Let go of expectations!

See Elizabeth Gilbert's complete answer here.

Tip #4: Take a hike!

See Michael J. Sullivan's complete answer here.

See Richelle Mead's complete answer here.

Tip #5: Change perspective!

See Chris Bohjalian's complete answer here.

Tip #6: Procrastination is your friend!

See B.J. Novak's complete answer here.

And if all else fails, there's always Tip #7: Tough love

See Chuck Wendig's complete answer here.

How do you overcome writer's block? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below, or ask some of these authors currently taking questions! go finish that novel!

Comments Showing 1-45 of 45 (45 new)

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message 1: by Prof. P (new)

Prof. P  P Healings Writer's block is a kind of the way the brain refuses to speak,let him do something else. In other words, the brain is involved in oscillation and it passes the dark spot,then no light is shared on active words, hence the block.

message 2: by Dougie (new)

Dougie Brimson I absolutely agree with most of those points and have said so many times. Here, for instance.

message 3: by Debra (new)

Debra Once a lit. Teacher told me to just start with a word and begin writing a long list for one minute without taking a break, just keep writing a word. Interesting list of words usually appears and your mind is much more flexed.

message 4: by Melissa ~*I Talk Wordy About My Books*~ (last edited Jan 26, 2015 08:09PM) (new)

Melissa ~*I Talk Wordy About My Books*~ I This is a fantastic post/s! I'm Loving this new feature in the same spot where the polls and quotes are on the home page. My question isn't about writers block per se. More along the lines of what to do when you have 'too' much you want to write about on so many topics and you cannot decide which direction to go? Also, I've been begging people for years asking kindly for help on the search for writers book ideas to give me some simply put beginner tips and lessons about aspects of writing? Any and all suggestions greatly appreciated! Aspiring writer with 2000 novels floating unorganized in my head. The answers above regarding writer's block are really awesome. Thanks to all the authors, publishers, and of course Goddreads. Love Love Love it here!! :')

message 5: by Lisa (new)

Lisa M. Lynn wrote: "This is a fantastic post/s! I'm Loving this new feature in the same spot where the polls and quotes are on the home page. My question isn't about writers block per se. More along the lines of what ..."

Keep all of your ideas in a notebook or a bx, and then choose one to finish. Commit to finishing that one, meanwhile still adding to your ideas. Move on the next one. The thing about writing is that can only be an aspiring novelist if you never actually finish a novel. Also, you might want to read Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott.

message 6: by V.W. (new)

V.W. Singer Basically I agree with the quotes that say there is no such thing as "writer's block". Writing is a job. I never had a block writing reports and proposals in my job, and I don't in writing my novels.

message 7: by Nicole (new)

Nicole I keep writing. Even if it's about something that doesn't fit with my piece (for example, a random dragon appears in a book that is strictly not fantasy). Just something to get those fingers typing and those creative juices flowing.

message 8: by Kari (last edited Jan 28, 2015 04:26AM) (new)

Kari Grant Proper Planning Prevents P*** Poor Performance. For me knowing what I'm trying to write is an important first half of the battle. Plan hard to win the Battles (i.e. the chapters) and therein the War (i.e. the book). That was how I fought my way to finishing my debut novel 'Fallen Wife'.

message 9: by Lovekitty (new)

Lovekitty I totally agree with all of this. When developing a story, I usually walk around and listen to music, and all off that together fuels my imagination.

message 10: by Judith (new)

Judith Works I like to go for a walk when I am without inspiration, but as Lois Lowry says no dentist gets a block - or at least I hope mine doesn't.

message 11: by Judith (new)

Judith Thomson I don't start at the beginning of my novels and work through to the end so for me the answer is to just pick another part of the story and come back to the bit I was struggling with later. My characters can usually help too. If I put them into the scene and let them talk to each other they often manage to sort it out for me!

message 12: by Sophia (new)

Sophia Judith wrote: "I don't start at the beginning of my novels and work through to the end so for me the answer is to just pick another part of the story and come back to the bit I was struggling with later. My chara..."

I do the exact same thing! :D

message 13: by Michael (new)

Michael The best way for me is to take some time away, then write. Also reading is a great way for me to get my creative juices going.

message 14: by Irum (new)

Irum Zahra It is true you know, You feel stuck on either way too many words or none at all.
I always listen to music or watch a good movie. It wears off.
Plus, I think all any writer needs is a muse. If the writer feels he/she is stuck, he should just look around and see if he can connect things with his words. That helps.

message 15: by Sara (last edited Jan 28, 2015 03:07AM) (new)

Sara Naveed The best way to avoid a writer's block is to read on a daily basis. Reading will help you in so many ways. It will help your brain function at a faster rate. You'll end up having imaginations related to your characters and then ultimately you'll be back on the writing track!
Apart from reading, you would also want to give your brain some rest. Watch a light hear-ted movie or listen to songs that inspire you. Songs can really inspire you to write.

message 16: by Khulud (last edited Jan 28, 2015 07:43AM) (new)

Khulud Khamis 1. I go for a run. It helps me clear my mind, and just when I'm not thinking about my manuscript, the thoughts come on their own. Usually a new perspective is revealed to me.
2. I try to end each writing session in a middle of a scene or in a place where I have an idea where to pick up from the next time. Then, the next time, I can pick it up from there rather than having to face a completely blank page.
3. I pick a good novel and read, notebook and pencil close to me. I get lost in a different world, and forget about my characters. It's similar to when I run. Just when you've completely forgotten about it, the ideas come on their own.
4. I write about my writing process in my journal. I put in writing what I think isn't working and why. Then I try to come up with solutions. Putting my thoughts down on paper helps me sort through them and process the challenges.
5. I don't write chronologically. I can leave a scene that isn't working and go on to write another scene, and come back to the earlier scene at a later stage. I don't believe in linear writing at all. With my first novel, I had the end scene written quite early on. It's more challenging this way, because you have to keep track of the narrative as well as character development, but you can have a lot of fun with it this way.
6. Taking time off from writing gives me a wider perspective. The story needs its own time, and I appreciate the process and time needed.

message 17: by Khulud (new)

Khulud Khamis M. Lynn wrote: "This is a fantastic post/s! I'm Loving this new feature in the same spot where the polls and quotes are on the home page. My question isn't about writers block per se. More along the lines of what ..."

writing down the bones and wild mind - both books by Natalie Goldberg are full of great ideas.

message 18: by E.A. (last edited Jan 28, 2015 09:53AM) (new)

E.A. If I'm stuck, I try to talk it out and for me, 99% of it is FEAR. FEAR that the scene I am writing does not flow with the rest. FEAR that a character is coming off the wrong way. FEAR that it's boring, not exciting enough. The fear lies in not knowing how to fix something. First step is accepting there is something that needs fixing. Once I figure out where the FEAR is coming from, I am able to embrace it, thank FEAR as a friend for helping me in my writing journey and finally, move past it (several mugs of hot cocoa also helps).

message 19: by Miamikel (new)

Miamikel SS I love these! Like Michael Sullivan point out (Tip #4!), I talk to myself - OUT LOUD. Yes, I get the crazy looks, the people that smile and nod - even ones that gather their kids a little closer. But it's all good - talking it out helps alleviate the block and regenerates the creative flow!

message 20: by Fatima (new)

Fatima Naqvi i read en my english literature book about some optimum point! that's natural. and at that point our inside demands da freedom from da on-going task! so yeah. give yourself that freedom and you'll be back wd a more motivating energy to keep up wd da task!

message 21: by Alexander (new)

Alexander These are pretty good and practical answers. I like the answer by Lois Lowry the best

message 22: by Veronica (new)

Veronica Goodwill When the Muse doesn't appear it's time to relax and think in other things and when the time comes, your brain will be full of great stories and beautiful plcaes. It's just time.

message 23: by Paige (new)

Paige Yin what I do mostly is just write, write out what's on the mind, finish up the scene. there's always a chance to return to it later, to reread and rewrite, and reread and rewrite the whole thing possibly a thousand times until it is more or less satisfactory.

message 24: by Judith (new)

Judith Thomson I agree with Paige 100% about the rereading and rewriting.There is usually something you can see that you feel you could have put better when you come at it with fresh eyes and see it as another reader would. Often you feel that what you end up with is better than the rest and you wonder why you ever had a problem with it!

message 25: by Benita (new)

Benita This is so inspiring! I always end up not knowing where the story should go next or what the characters should say/do. I'm gonna keep this in mind!

message 26: by Shefali (new)

Shefali Deshwali I try to take a break and do something else for instance reading. It helps to let the ideas flow again. Sometimes I also try to rewrite from the scratch with new theme. This trick helps a lot. :)

message 27: by Rabea (new)

Rabea Ziani I agree with all of these, " car il ne faut guerre succomber aux obstacles" !

message 28: by Judy (new)

Judy When I'm stuck, I open up my word file titled "Words of Wisdom." In great big letters, I see the words "It's OK to write bad, just write." I stare at it for a while, then grit my teeth as I write something that I know is truly awful. But it never fails to get me over that bump and back on track.

message 29: by Nicole (new)

Nicole I create a "To Be Deleted" document. Then, I write. Then, I judge it. Then, I possibly trash it. If not, I keep it. Then, I've overcome it.

message 30: by Kathy (last edited Jan 29, 2015 05:17PM) (new)

Kathy Golden I've recently written an article on overcoming writer's block. It's call Crack Writer's Block by Acting Outside the Box.

message 31: by Kathy (new)

Kathy Nickerson M. Lynn wrote: "This is a fantastic post/s! I'm Loving this new feature in the same spot where the polls and quotes are on the home page. My question isn't about writers block per se. More along the lines of what ..."
James Scott Bell has some excellent books on the craft of writing.

message 32: by Ralph (last edited Jan 29, 2015 09:07PM) (new)

Ralph Rotten I write multiple books at a time. Literally keep the files open at the same time. When I hit a spot on one, I just turn to the next story and work on that. By the time I get back to the first novel, I have had time for the questions to simmer in my mind until I have resolved the scene properly enough to write it.

For me, writer's block is usually due to indecision; I have to make a choice, go left or right, and the decision will shape the story I have to stop and mull it over for a while. In the meantime I work on another story, or sometimes animation. A couple of my books feature floorplans of the various bunkers, and I find it fascinating to create the artwork.I used to like designing covers until I found out I sucked at it.

message 33: by Jason (new)

Jason Lilly Steven Pressfield's short but amazing book Do the Work has a lot to say about obstacles to creativity. He says that any time someone has a great idea, there will inevitably be a force that seeks to destroy it. He urges us to fight, don't quit, because that opposition means your idea is truly great.

message 34: by I. (last edited Jan 30, 2015 08:21AM) (new)

I. Debra wrote: "Once a lit. Teacher told me to just start with a word and begin writing a long list for one minute without taking a break, just keep writing a word. Interesting list of words usually appears and y..."
Love this suggestion of making a list. Thanks for sharing!

I have also found that if I am dealing with other life issues, I write those out, too so that I can get the creative flow going again. I can rant as I write and I don't have to share it if I don't want to. Just helps to not get bogged down with the negatives.

message 35: by Ashley (new)

Ashley This is great! Wonderful advice!

message 36: by Penny (last edited Jan 30, 2015 08:56PM) (new)

Penny I don't believe in writer's block. Not for novel writing anyway.
What is the answer? If you plan your work first - write out a plan before you even start the writing part of the project - then you will know what is supposed to happen next, always. You planned it.
And if you're stumped after that? Well then you clearly need a break. Everyone needs one - get out and explore the world for a bit then come back, sit down and do it. It IS a job. Not always a well-paid one (I should have been a dentist for that LOL), but a rewarding one as far as I'm concerned!

If you want to see how I write - I wrote a piece that was in 2014's Whitireia '4th Floor Journal'. Google 'Whitireia 4th floor journal 2014' and you'll find it :)
Penny M Geddis

message 37: by Shona (new)

Shona Kaye Excellent advice. Particularly liking Nick Harkaway's take on it. Read his full answer here.) I wholeheartedly agree.

message 38: by Incy (new)

Incy Black Writer block does exist and maybe, just maybe, it should be seen more positively as a form of 'quality control by creative conscience'. If somethings isn't working, chances are it's not going to work for the reader. If whatever is inhibiting the flow of words can't be fixed, move on, find something new to write about. There is no law that states you can't return to a troubling ms in the future. (One thing harder than writer's block is taking my own advice.) ;)

message 39: by John (new)

John Stiles I go for a long run and/or go through old books and photos from charity shops.

message 40: by Audra (new)

Audra Middleton I usually edit - but I think the cure for me is dealing with the stress is my life that's preoccupying me.

message 41: by Akinola (new)

Akinola Ajani I think it's important to get back into a good mood and let some steam out of your system. I usually go for a walk or read some poetry to open my mind

message 43: by SuperWhoLock (new)

SuperWhoLock My problem with writers block is a little different. I think of an idea of a story in little islands. I know I want this to happen here, this here, etc. But, its hard for me to build bridges to connect those little idea islands or-here it goes- let go of some of them. How can I do this while keeping the flow of it?

message 44: by Ralph (new)

Ralph Rotten This is why I have multiple stories open at the same time, to shift from one to the other. See, a lotta writer's block is caused by indecision; do you turn left or right on that little detail that will effect the entire storyline's trajectory

When I hit one of these roadblocks I switch to another story or some editing or some marketing. I am still paying towards the cause, and I'll come back to the roadblock when my subconscious mind can resolve the indecision.

So really, banging your head against the wall over writer's block could be counter productive. If the source of the roadblock is indecision, then the only cure is time to process [the decision], Move on to something else while it stews at the back of your mind. Your subconscious mind is waaaaay more powerful than your conscious mind.

message 45: by Kevin (new)

Kevin Chilvers I'm not sure I believe in the term writer's block. It is more a lack of ideas at the moment. I find it best to write something - even just a few bullet points or ideas. Then have a rest, go for a walk or something so I can can mull those points over in my head without any pressure and start seeing the scene in my head. It's easier when you have the things you want to say as starting points. Then write - it doesn't have to be great - that's what editing is for.
It works for me.

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